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What do these words mean?

What do those words actually mean?

We have all been there.

Even the most seasoned parent of a child with additional needs has been there. Someone will use an abbreviation, change a word (or even just a letter) and be chatting away in a meeting whilst we are left wondering what are they talking about!

Hopefully this cheat sheet of acronyms will help you. If there is something that you think needs adding please just email us at


Applied Behaviour Analysis/ABA

ABA is used to help children with autism and is primarily a set of interventions to address behaviour patterns by recognising the causes and consequences of this. 


Attention Deficit Disorder/ADD

A disorder where the sufferer appears inattentive or easily distracted and lacks hyperactivity or impulsiveness (unlike with ADHD). They may find it difficult to focus, concentrate or commit to a task beyond what should be reasonably expected of them. More recently this may be referred to as Inattentive ADHD.


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder/ADHD

A disorder where the sufferer appears inattentive or easily distracted and hyperactive and/or impulsive. They may also lack an awareness of danger of consequence. They may find it difficult to focus, concentrate or commit to a task beyond what should be reasonably expected of them.



An advocate is someone nominated to represent a child or young person and help them make important decisions. 



An anaesthetist is the doctor in control of anaesthetic during a surgery. 


Annual Review

An Annual Review ensures that the needs outlined in the EHCP are being met.  As the name suggests, it takes place every 12 months.


Auditory Processing Disorder/APD

APD refers to a disorder where children have no clinical hearing problems but are unable to correctly process information that they hear. They may be able to repeat what is said, but have no comprehension of the meaning. In many cases APD presents alongside other conditions. 


Autism Diagnostic Interview/ADI (sometimes referred to as ADI-R (Autism Diagnostic Interview Revised)

The ADI is a semi-structured interview that takes places with the care givers of a child who potentially may be diagnosed with autism.


Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule/ADOS

The ADOS test is used to assess children where an autism, or other pervasive disorder diagnosis is potentially possible. It is semi-structured and mixes communication, social interaction and play which allows the assessor to judge the occurrence of behaviours that are important in judging a diagnosis.


Autism Spectrum Disorder/ASD

ASD is an alternative name for autism, and refers to the spectrum that autism is considered to be. Autism is considered a spectrum as not all children (or adults) will show the same traits or behave in the same ways.


Behaviour, Emotional and Social Difficulties/BESD

BESD (also known as SEBD or EBD) is an umbrella term used to describe children with any condition that affects their behaviour, emotions or social interactions. It covers a wide range of conditions and children.


Care Plan/Health Care Plan

A care plan can refer to two documents; it can either be a record of health and social care services that are being provided to a child to help them manage conditions, or alternatively it can be a plan put in place by a school or educational establishment to help manage conditions within school, such as cardiac conditions or toileting. 


Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services/CAMHS 

A service for children up to 17 years old to assess and treat emotional, behavioural or mental health difficulties. 



The department or doctors involved in care surrounding the heart and pulmonary systems.


Cerebral Function Monitoring

A type of EEG which provides longer term monitoring for assessment.


Common Assessment Framework/CAF

Common Assessment Framework is a tool that is used to assess a child, children’s or family needs and share this information with other services that might be of help to the child and their family.  


Community/District Nurses

Community/District nurses are part of a nursing team who help with care in the home.


Congenital Heart Defect/CHD

CHD is an umbrella term used to cover a range of conditions all related to structural abnormalities within the heart. This could be as minor as a hole in the heart or as major as needing immediate surgery. 


Continuous Positive Airway Pressure/CPAP

CPAP is a medical treatment using mild pressure to maintain the openness of an airway. It is typically used for breathing difficulties such as sleep apnoea. 



A CT Scan is a Computed Tomography Scan. It is a scan performed a piece of machinery which takes multiple x-rays from different angles, giving doctors a clear view inside the body. It differs from an MRI Scan as the machinery is much smaller, usually a ring shape that moves up and down your body as appropriate. 


Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders/DSM-5/DSM-V

The DSM-5 is a manual used to aid in the diagnosis and categorization of mental health disorders and psychiatric disorders.  


Dyspraxia/Developmental Coordination Disorder/DCD

Dyspraxia is a coordinating disorder which relates to problems planning, coordinating and executing movements. It can also affect articulating, perceptions, thought processes, organisation and social-emotional awareness.


Early Help Assessment (EHA)

Often the first stage of your journey it is an assessment of your family's strengths, opportunities and challenges it is designed to bring everyone in your team together in order to get support around what your family needs help with. 


Early Years Foundation Stage/EYFS

The Early Years Foundation Stage is the curriculum usually followed by mainstream settings from birth to 5 years, with a set of Early Learning Goals for children to achieve in order to progress to the Primary National Curriculum. (Some settings pronounce EYFS as a single word; eye-fs)



An echocardiogram is a scan of the heart. It is a type of ultrasound scan which gives doctors a clear view of the heart, as well as the blood flow in, out and around the heart. This helps doctors to assess the condition of the heart and the rate of blood flow. 


Education, health and care needs assessment (EHCna)

To gain an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) your child will first need to have an education, health and care needs assessment to decide if they meet the criteria for and EHCP. 


Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP)

Education, Health and Care Plans have replaced “statements” in education settings. They set out the support and expectations that a school or educational establishment should have for a child.


Educational Psychologist/EP (Ed Psych)

An Educational Psychologist's job is to assess a child or young person’s special educational needs and to give advice to schools and settings on how the child’s needs can be met. 


Electrocardiogram (ECG)

An ECG is a simple test which attaches monitors to the torso of a child or patient and uses electrical impulses to create a visual representation of heart rate. It can be used to diagnose or monitor conditions. This is not to be confused with the similar-sounding echocardiogram.


Electroencephalogram (EEG)

An EEG is a scan of brain waves and activities, which attaches small metal disks to the scalp of a patient. It is used to diagnose epilepsy, along with other neurological conditions. 



Endocrinology is a sub-division of medicine, which is primarily focused on hormones and glandular conditions. This can include (but is not limited to) diabetes and growth problems.


Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills are small movements that usually require good hand-to-eye coordination, such as writing, drawing, crafting and painting. 



Gastroenterology is related to the digestive system, stomachs and intestines.


Gastrostomy Tube/G Tube

A G-tube is a tube-fed system usually fed through the stomach wall (known as a PEG) in order to support a child’s nutritional needs, generally on a longer-term need than NG Tubes. 


Gross Motor Skills

Gross motor skills are any skill that involves large movements, for example running, jumping, swimming. 



Hematology is related to the study of blood.



Hypermobility is a diagnosis where joints move beyond the expected normal range, and are more supple than their peers. This can result in pain in the joints for many sufferers.


International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems/ICD-10

The ICD-10 is a medical classification document created by the World Health Organisation and aids in the categorization and diagnosis of illnesses, disorders and health problems.


Individual Education Plan/IEP

An IEP is a plan or a program built to help a child achieve the targets outlined in an EHCP. It is built around the curriculum that the child is following and uses strategies tailored directly to the child.


IV/Intravenous Therapy

An IV (also known as a drip) is a way of administering fluids or medication directly into the vein of a patient.  Usually this is done through the hand or arm.


Lead Professional

A person identified as the main point of contact for a child, in order to ensure that the care for that child is co-ordinated effectively.


Local Offer

A local offer is a document that sets out the support and services available in a certain area for children with disabilities and additional needs.



Mainstream refers to any service that all children can access, including schools, clubs and organisations.


Moro Reflex

The moro reflex is a newborn infant reflex that should be present in infants up to 5 months old. If it is absent, or extends beyond this period, it could be an indication of neurological or central nervous system disorders.


MRI Scan

An MRI Scan is a Magnetic Imaging Resonance scan. This involves a much larger piece of equipment than the CT/CAT scan. It is a large tube that contains magnets which helps produce a scan image, and is generally more detailed than a CT/CAT scan.


Muscle Tone

Abnormal muscle tones usually fall into two categories; hypertonic is when muscles are too stiff, whereas hypotonic is when muscles are too floppy.


Nasogastric Tube/NG Tube

A NG tube is a slim tube that is passed through the nose into the stomach in order to support the nutritional needs of a child, and is generally used for short and medium term nutrition needs. 



A nebuliser is a method of delivering drugs to the lungs by creating a mist which is then breathed through a mask. It is commonly used for asthma, CF, COPD and other lung conditions.


Neonatal Intensive Care Unit/NICU

A NICU is a ward of the hospital where babies are taken who require intensive or specialist care.



A study of medicine involved with the brain, spine and spinal cords and nerves.


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder/OCD

OCD is an anxiety-based disorder where a child or adult has obsessions surrounding usually irrational thoughts, and often eases these obsessions through repetitive or self-soothing behaviours.


Occupational Therapist/OT

An Occupational Therapist gives advice on equipment, adaptations and activities to support the development of children with physical, emotional, sensory or behavioural difficulties. 



A study of medicine involved with cancer diagnosis and treatments.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder/ODD

ODD is a psychological disorder which causes sufferers to be abnormally defiant to instruction or authority. This goes above and beyond age, stage and diagnostic expectations (should another condition exist alongside) and beyond sibling arguments, and can cause significant problems for the sufferer.



Orthopaedics is a study of medicine related to bone and bone growth.



A specialist doctor trained to deal with children up to 18 years old. These can be further split based on the location of their work, for example hospital paediatricians or community paediatrician, the latter work more closely with families in their own settings.


Palliative Care

Palliative care is care given to a person who has illnesses that cannot be cured, and focuses on making symptoms manageable, giving the best quality of life possible. Palliative care is not limited to end of life care, but may take place while treatments are still on-going.


Paediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections/PANDAS (PANS)

PANDAS is a diagnosis of a neuropsychiatric condition such as OCD or tic disorders that develop suddenly, or are worsened after suffering from a strep infection. 


Parent Partnership Services

Parent Partnership Services is a local service that supports and advises parents on educational issues for children with Special Educational Needs


Pathological Demand Avoidance/PDA

PDA is considered to be part of the autistic spectrum, however the difficulties are centered around a need to avoid expectation and demands due to the high levels of anxiety that these can carry, and the need to have control.


Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy/PEG

A PEG is a system fitted through the abdominal wall directly into the stomach in order to support a child’s nutritional needs on a longer-term basis than NG Tube feeding. It is one of the most common forms of G-Tube feeding. 


Personal Budgets

Money that people responsible for the young person can use to spend on things that improve quality of life for this person.



A physiotherapist is a trained professional who deals with motor movement and function. This can be due to a diagnosis or following an illness or injury, and can help reduce further problems in the future.


Picture Exchange Communication System/PECS

PECS is a language and communication system developed for autistic and non-verbal children in order to aid, scaffold and support communication. By using universal symbols and pictures, children can express desires, moving on to expressing more complex language should cognitive awareness allow.



Portage is an association who help children with additional needs from birth to 5, in a home setting. 



Proprioception refers to the ability to judge where your body is in the space around it through sensing our muscle and joint positions. This allows you to judge how to move to reach certain places or react to situations such as avoiding obstacles. 


Pupil Referral Unit/PRU

A PRU is a specialist educational provision for children who cannot attend mainstream or specialist school. Traditionally they are seen as units for children who have been excluded, but this isn’t their only intake. 


Relationship Development Intervention/RDI 

Relationship Development Intervention is an intervention primarily designed for children with autism in order to develop and strengthen social bonds, particularly within a family. 


Sensory Processing Disorder/SPD

Sensory Processing Disorder is a condition where a child doesn’t process the signals from their senses appropriately. It can lead to a number of difficulties as children fail to process or react to sensory information in a socially appropriate way.



A shunt can refer to a number of medical procedures, all of which result in the draining or movement of fluid from one part of the body to another, or away from the body entirely.


Speech and Language Therapist/SALT/SLT

The Speech and Language Therapist is trained to assess and treat speech, language and communication problems in order to help them better communicate. They may also help with children who have trouble eating and swallowing.


Special Educational Need/SEN

SEN is a blanket term used for any child who needs additional support to help them learn in an educational establishment.


Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator/SENCO

A Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator is a designated teacher within school who is responsible for the day-to-day provision for children with SEN, or who are suspected of having SEN. It is their job to liaise with parents, children, staff and outside agencies on behalf of the child. 



A stoma is fitted in surgery. It is a procedure to divert waste matter from the body out into a pouch outside of the intestines.


Syndrome Without A Name/SWAN 

Children who doctors have been unable to diagnose with a specific condition are often referred to as SWAN. These are usually children with a genetic disorder.


Team Around (the) Child/TAC

TAC is usually only referred to during a TAC meeting, where all agencies involved in a child’s care or welfare meet to ensure that they understand the child’s needs and are meeting them appropriately.


Team Around (the) Family/TAF

As TAC, but for an identified family rather than child.



Urology is a branch of medicine related to all bladder conditions, as well as male reproductive conditions.